The National Merchant Buying Society (NMBS) is calling on employers in the builder’s merchant sector to take advantage of government funding to re-skill staff and bring in apprentices as it marks this year’s National Apprenticeship Week.

The Government provides up to 95% funding for employers to hire someone new or upskill an existing employee, allowing them to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. 

NMBS is working with construction apprenticeships specialist LEAP to train scores of builder’s merchant apprentices each year to help address the skills gap in the construction sector. 

The apprentices are distributed across NMBS member companies, such as Gardner and Scardifield, Yard Direct, and Silverton Builders Merchants. These apprenticeships are providing a mix of fresh talent entering the construction industry and experienced professionals looking to enhance their skills and advance their careers.

NMBS is supporting the Builders Merchants Federation's (BMF) pledge to have 15,000 apprentices across its membership by 2030. This initiative, launched in June 2023, aims to address the skills gap in the building materials industry and maximise the use of levy funds across the sector.

Dean Hayward, Head of Sales and Marketing at NMBS, said: "Our apprenticeship recruitment drive is making a significant contribution to addressing the skills shortage in the construction industry and represents a strategic investment in the future.

“By welcoming fresh talent and enhancing the skills of experienced staff, apprenticeships not only secure fulfilling careers for individuals but also deliver substantial benefits to employers. Through apprenticeships, employers save on recruitment costs and foster diversification across teams, leading to increased retention rates and heightened staff satisfaction.”

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that 225,000 workers will be needed by 2027 to meet industry demand, making apprenticeships a crucial component of the solution.

One example of the success of this recruitment campaign is 18-year-old Ethan Edwards from Colchester. Edwards' journey into the construction industry began after completing his A-levels in 2022. Initially trying his hand as a chef, he quickly realised the lack of opportunities for progression in that field. Undeterred, he continued his search and found the apprenticeship route appealing for its practical learning and career advancement possibilities.

Edwards joined Silverton Builders Merchant in Colchester as an apprentice in September 2023, seeking training and work experience without the potential financial burden of university education.

Reflecting on his experience at Silverton, Edwards expressed his satisfaction with the diverse opportunities available in the construction industry. His day-to-day activities involve loading and unloading vehicles, picking and packing orders, serving customers, and processing invoices. Edwards acknowledged the crucial role played by his mentor, Jonathon Hill, in supporting him and building his confidence throughout his apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship's balance between work and study is a key highlight for Edwards.

"I feel that I am building a strong foundation for my future career, and that I have a lot of options and opportunities ahead of me," he said.

The apprenticeships are tailored to the specific needs of the builder’s merchant industry and construction sector, and include courses ranging from Level 2 to 7 in such disciplines as credit control and collection, software development, warehouse operations, project management, sales, and HR support, among others.